By Machela Osagboro

Antiguans and Barbudans have not been taking advantage of the EC $5 mil that was allocated to the Home Improvement Fund (HIF). The government reported that it received disappointing figures from the Caribbean Union Bank (CUB), which reflected gross undersubscription of the project.

The fund was designed for low-income earners, allowing them to borrow up to $50,000 through the CUB that is partly owned by the government. Homeowners would be able to repay said loan, which is meant for repairs to their home at 5 percent interest rate.

Lionel Hurst, Chief of Staff in the Office of the Prime Minister, who spoke at the post-Cabinet press briefing on Thursday, speculated that the reason for the low applications to the programme could be the existing car loans which the homeowners already have.

“People in Antigua and Barbuda have shown a preference for owning vehicles,” according to Hurst. “It is really difficult to already have borrowed money to buy a vehicle, to also borrow money to improve on homes. The bank itself said that people weren’t as forthcoming as they thought people would readily take the loan up.”

The number of applicants to date indicated that there wasn’t enough public interest generated for the home improvement scheme.

A simple application form was developed for the HIF so as to make the process as easy as possible. Part of the stipulations of the loan agreement is that homeowners must first have an estimate of the repairs, be able to prove earnings, and must be able to repay the loan over a period of 10 years.

Despite the simplified process, CUB reported minimal applications for the fund that was launched in November 2019. This project is to form part of the housing revolution formulated under the Gaston Browne-led administration.